Outdoorsy lets you hire campers for a dose of Vanlife
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It was evening when my old college roommate pulled up in his campervan. After months of arduous renovations and episodes of disgusting swearing, his 1983 Chevrolet G20 was on the road, roaming the country at a snail’s pace.
As he opened and closed the driver’s door, an audible moan echoed through the frame that reminded me of the sound my grandfather made as he settled into his favorite chair. Its original coat of paint, once bronze and creamy, has started to wear off. Rust found a house near the doorknobs, making one of them totally useless. And the radio was broken.
Needless to say, my expectations were low.
But as he opened the sliding door, I dipped my head into a compact sanctuary that contrasted sharply with the aging exterior of the van. Cabinets were finished with natural wood trim, camping mugs hung from reused twigs, and a queen-size bed provided plenty of room to spread out after a long day on the road. In the blink of an eye, my urge to join him and the thousands of others living in a van was palpable.
That’s until I start looking for my own van. Older RVs listed on Craigslist were money pits for a lifetime of repairs, while modern sprinters totaled more than a down payment on a new home. Frustrated with the barrier to entry, I went on to assume that van life would forever remain unattainable. It was then that a friend recommended Outdoors.
The Austin-based rental platform houses a fleet of motorhomes, trailers and RVs across the country, allowing individuals to rent their personal equipment that would otherwise sit idle in a driveway. Much like Airbnb, the service lets you roam just about anywhere on four wheels and offers a fun alternative to traditional rentals. And perhaps most importantly, you can finally fulfill your dream of living in a van, if only for a few hundred miles.
Driven by my old nomadic fantasies, I took a plane to Utah, rented a motorhome of mine and I made my way into the mountains beyond Park City to see what van life was all about.
On the road to nowhere
The idea of hopping in a car and heading to an unfamiliar place has always appealed to me. This is why I have crossed the country solo more than once and the same reason I still make the long way back. But road trips, for all the attraction and wonder they draw, are not easy.
Sometimes you are looking for comfortable accommodation in a city with a run down motel. Other times, you’re stranded by the side of the road, wandering aimlessly in the hope of finding cell service to call AAA. When you’re not listening to a Spotify playlist, you’re looking on local radio for a station that doesn’t embrace Christian rock. And then there are the constant pauses in the bathroom, which leads you to consider using that empty Big Gulp container as a car engine in the cruise control.
And yet, for almost all of the predictable road travel annoyances I’ve encountered, vanlife comes to the rescue. Bathroom breaks only require you to get off the road before using the built-in toilet. The bedrooms are standard. And if your van has all the bells and whistles, there’s probably satellite radio out there that keeps you connected forever to tunes agnostic.
When I found a campsite among other van-goers on an alpine lake in the Uinta Mountains, the innocence and the effortless way of van life became evident. Every day is like the trip of a lifetime, whether you watch a sunrise from the back doors of the van or snuggle up under blankets in a spacious bed. Just hours after the trip began, it was evident that this transient lifestyle was so appealing.
Welcome to my home
It didn’t take long to get acquainted with my van, a 2019 Erwin Hymer Group Sunlight V2. Social media would have you believe that van life is essentially the same as living at home, but I’d rather compare it to life in a college dorm. The kitchen-office, for example, featured a two-burner stove, microwave, sink, and refrigerator with plenty of space for cooking utensils, but you’ll have to accommodate the smaller space when you go. prepare a big meal.
Beyond the kitchen, a set of benches provided enough space to relax after a day on the road, and a quick rearrangement of the sectional cushions turned the entire space into a king bed. As is the case with most Outdoorsy rentals, the owners of this rig have stored clean sheets and pillows for extra comfort.
To my surprise, the back of the van had a toilet and flush shower, along with a shower curtain and partition that secures the space. With the push of a button, the powerful van water heater can deliver a hot shower in minutes, and for those who truly embrace the vibrations of vanlife, the shower can also be moved outside by opening the rear entrance.
Amenities certainly vary depending on your desires and needs, but this one comes with a few extras travelers will love, like a bike rack, awning, solar panels, TV, and audio inputs to ride the bike. music. After a few days in the van, learning its many ins and outs, I found myself quite comfortable living on less.
Everything that shines
I remember reading an article posted years ago by a couple who tried the van life after purchasing a 1995 Ford E-350 Econoline van. What started as a spirited effort to live on the road ended in headaches , anxiety and two empty bank accounts that forced each of them to move home. Their experience, while valuable, contrasts sharply with online coverage which portrays vanlife as an idyllic state of being. For every trip in the backcountry, there is an unforeseen repair; for each shower and flush, a waste water tank to empty at the end of a long day. It’s a pressure cooker that tests your mental state, with no interest in whether or not you are doing it.
As I stretched out in the back of the van on my last night, hiding under blankets from the buzzing radiator, I realized that van life wasn’t all glitz and glamor. I thought about the maintenance, the repairs, the committment of life on the road and wondered why I would ever buy a van when I could just rent one instead. Of course, it’s not the same as #vanlife, and purists would describe me more as a fraud, but for most of us (myself included) it does the trick.
My advice? Live your vanlife dreams through Outdoors. The brand’s online platform and emerging rental network offers the perfect solution for people like me and for those looking to replace a traditional vacation rental with something much more fun. The service is easy to use, the prices are reasonable and IMHO better than vanlife could ever be.
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